Fandom: Shadow of the Colossus
Pairing and/or Character: Wander/Mono
Disclaimer: This lovely world does not belong to me.
Summary: Autumn is the hour when the world decays.
Warnings: Character death, morbid depression. No spoilers.
the night we were lost
in the shade of the blackthorn
and the chill the of frost
and thanks be to heaven
we did all that was right
yet my maiden is still
as a pillar of light
/falling leaves are whispering/
not for her the chill ground, damp and dirty with the ghosts of old rains. he gathered the fallen leaves to make a pallet for her, as he did every night, piling it thick to keep down the wet and the mud. into its deep crackling embrace he placed her, lifting her from off his horse's back as it stood patiently, breathing mist into the crisp evening air.
she was a cold and heavy burden in his arms, a silent gray bundle wrapped close in the burial cloth he'd stolen with her. his weary arms and back strained at the unwieldy maneuvering, but he took tender care with her, setting her down as softly as if she might bruise on the stones in the earth, should he let her fall.
crouched beside her, he brushed one pale cheek with a curled knuckle. every dark eyelash perfect, featherlight against her skin.
she seemed as if she slept. this was the mercy allowed him by the rags of their luck. he had made a bed for her, and now if he chose, he might think she slept.
he had never carried much with him in his days as a hunter. the only familiarities were the light touch of his bow across his back, the hollow tapping of it against his arrow quiver, the swing at his belt of a pouch for a few chipped bone blades. his horse would never bear the body of a deer, shying away with dancing hooves and head thrown back, eyes rolling white at the smell of blood so much like its own. a brace of partridges or brake-hens, strung together to dangle from his saddlehorn, was a nothing in his hands, all hollow bones and feathers.
when first he had prepared to lift her from the slab of cold gray stone where they had laid her, she had seemed cool and empty at the touch of his hands. they had washed her clean, smoothed the shining dark hair and dressed her to hide the terrible wound. his fingers had slid beneath her, the hollows of her knees and her shoulderblades slim and hard, as he begged forgiveness in a whisper for the presumption of touch.
he thought perhaps she would not have minded. they were handfast at last, after all, for all the good it had been worth in the end. it was his right to sit behind her on the saddle, and at last he had exercised it, gathering her limp frame into his arms and staggering back. the sword in its scabbard slapped against his bare leg, another unfamiliar stolen shape to carry with him.
he had, that first time, barely made it to his waiting horse. he could not rig a drag for her, slim limbs bound like a doe's, thumping and bumping over the miles of terrain. the thought was unthinkable. instead he struggled, and heaved, and prayed for the safety of the most precious burden that ever was.
he was learning to stagger less beneath her weight, as the days went on. they had told him as a child that loss would make him stronger, and he relearned that lesson now in practical terms.
brushing a strand of dark hair from her eyes, he stood, and listened. for following hoofbeats. for anything. there was nothing but the wind in the boughs.
the dim and waning light filtered through the trees overhead in faint rays, illuminating the droplets of water that hung among the branches in tiny bright points. he stood gazing up at them for a long moment, breathing deep as they trembled, every one seemingly on the verge of letting go and falling...
the soft warmth of his horse's nose pushed at his shoulder, huffing softly, and he turned and leaned his brow against its velvety cheek with his eyes tight shut, and swallowed hard.
then, kneeling beside her without regard for the wet earth, he tucked down the soft gray cloth with the gentle touch of a brother, afraid to leave the delicate features exposed, pulling a fold out to cover her bare feet as though she might catch cold, though in truth it was the flies and the foxes he feared. catching cold was easier to let himself think of than such things, and how he thought was desperately important; he could go mad with too much dwelling on the stillness of her breath and the cold stiffness of her fingers, too much gratefulness for the chill in the autumn air.
only after she was taken care of did he gather his own heap of leaves, and settle into it beside her, with his horse at his back to keep him warm. he slept without dreams, which was preferable.
his failure lay heavy and cruel on her small body. he could not stop her falling then. he was learning instead to carry them now, love and failure alike.
his care would preserve her until they reached the forbidden lands.
once there, he would have to trust to the gods to do the rest.